Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: World After

World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)World After by Susan Ee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


World After is the sequel to Angelfall by Susan Ee. Following the shocking finale of the book, this installment picks up with Penryn reunited with her mother and sister, but without Raffe, who thinks he's watched her die in his arms. The story follows Penryn as she tries to balance keeping her family safe with the ongoing apocalyptic shenanigans, as well as trying to figure out where she fits in this world. What matters more, protecting those she loves, doing her part to take down the enemies of humankind, or following her heart?

It hurt so much to finish this book, knowing that there isn't a new one waiting for me like last time. World After survived the Second Book Curse, keeping its momentum of plot without having to sacrifice character development or anything else.

I really enjoyed the fact that family means absolutely everything to Penryn, and how that manifests through her attitude towards the Resistance. While Dee and Dum were fantastic, and we got to see more of them, the place itself seemed less like a resistance and more like a refugee camp. Which is fine, except you can't mount a massive resistance like Obi wants if the numbers of civilians vs. rebels don't match in his favor. Anyway, Resistance people annoyed me, but only because Penryn was upset by them. We also get to see the tougher side of dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic mother, revealing just how much weight Penryn carries on her shoulders every day.

This book is lacking in quantity when it comes to Penryn/Raffe interactions, but what it does have packs a serious punch. Both of them know that their feelings run deeper than simple allies, and neither one is willing to voice those feelings, for fear of the implications. For Penryn, it has something to do with the fact that Raffe is the "enemy," though that seems like it's becoming less of a source of conflict. Raffe, however, is dealing with a lot. He has to reconcile his feelings with the dangerous realities of what would result, as well as his own morality: how can he do what he damned his own brethren for, and what does that say about him as a person (angel-person)?

I thought that the last few action scenes were shocking, and even a bit bizzare, but when it comes to Susan Ee, I've learned to roll with it, because it always turns out for the better. Though of course, this time I have to wait a year for that to happen, and I am not pleased! I was literally dreading turning the pages the closer I got to the end. PLEASE give us the third book SOONER I can't take the waiting!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Angelfall

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)Angelfall by Susan Ee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Angelfall is a dystopian novel by Susan Ee, the first in a series. Penryn Young is struggling to keep her struggling family together in the wake of the Apocalypse--and not just any old Apocalypse, but the Biblical End of Days. Angels in all their terrifying glory have torn the world to pieces, and to survive one day is a victory. However, when Penryn's younger sister Paige is kidnapped by one of these angels, she must rely on the last person she'd have expected to find an ally in. Raffe, a now wingless angel, hardly expected to be at the mercy of a Daughter of Man, but the two soon realize that they are each other's only hope of getting their lives back.

I can be a bit of a book snob, and more often than not, I am shown the error of my ways once I sit down and read the object of my snobbery. Angelfall was one such book. I didn't really know that much about it until I saw some hype growing on Tumblr, and based on quotes, I thought it seemed interesting. Once I got it, I saw that had been published by Amazon Children's, and even though I knew there was a strong fanbase to defend it, and that it was almost definitely going to be worth my time, I put off reading it for a while, and not because I have so many other books TBR, but because I am a book snob. Well, let it be said that I not only thoroughly enjoyed this book, but have also been checking my order status for its sequel ten times since I ordered it today.

Angelfall has a few odds stacked against it in terms of winning over its audience. It's a dystopian, it's about angels, fallen or otherwise, and the main male interest is being described as "Adonis" and other too-perfect modifiers that content such as Twilight and others from those years were saturated with. However, I really liked the fact that:

A: his hotness was not spoken of just in aesthetic appreciation, but as a reminder of the fact that he's not human, and not in a good way

B: Penryn, our heroine, has a very grounded head on her shoulders, and consistently checks herself whenever she begins to rationalize things. Only once they have truly "gotten to know each other" does she allow herself to believe that his "different-ness" actually stands to affect her decision-making.

I love love love relationships that actually start with the characters hating each other. Like, visceral, I-want-to-kill-you type stuff. I love it because the author has to be able to bridge the gap from hate to love with skill and finesse, meaning that the risk of insta-love or otherwise awkward change in emotions is at an all-time low. Heck, in this book, love doesn't really factor in until the last fifty pages. Not that the rest of the book is "all out of love." We can see that Penryn and Raffe aren't simply enemy-of-my-enemy type allies, but it's refreshing to see that they haven't totally realized that just yet.

I thought that the worldbuilding was done very well. Unlike Rick Yancey's 5th Wave, where we got sixty pages of exposition (which I did enjoy), Angelfall places the reader right in the middle of a transition for the characters. They've been living in this environment for a while, and they're actually about to begin a new chapter of their lives. So we simultaneously feel like we're in the same headspace as the characters while also adapting to the book's world through a just-roll-with-it-until-you-catch-up, or maybe a catch-up-or-get-left-behind, mentality. With some authors, this leads to really thin worldbuilding, and circumstances that seem arbitrary and, well, circumstantial, but Susan Ee works some sort of delightful sorcery so that everything seems plausible, while still allowing for out of the blue, "WTF?!" moments.

Aside from the dynamic duo and the well-sculpted world and plot, I loved all the other characters. They were all fleshed out and felt like they had real presence in the story, and that they weren't just plot devices. I especially loved the Dee-Dum twins. I kept picturing them as Fred and George, and I hope to see more of them. I also really hope that all the questions in the first book get answered, if not in the next one, then in the coming novels. Goodreads claims there's going to be five! I'm loving the fact that not every series now has to be a trilogy. You've got duologies, trilogies, fours and fives, novella bindups, companion novels. Okay, I'll stop ranting about books in general and get back to this one in particular.

The only thing that I would say against this book was that it was too short. I want more! I also think that there were some Interiority bits (Penryn thinking to herself, being pensive) in moments that required a lot more direct text, like in fight scenes where she would stop to explain an element of the fight. However, it didn't pull me out of the story enough to be a problem. If you like dystopian, supernatural, romance, or action, I highly suggest this book. Don't underestimate it--Angelfall packs a punch you'll never forget!

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

February Book Haul (Or is it March Wrap-Up?)

So, I got a lot of books this February. Like, a lot. As in 17 books. And while it is technically March, I decided that I would show off the shinies. I don't know if you would call this a haul, or a wrap-up for the month (I have not read all of these, so I guess not). Anyway, let's get cracking!

(I apologize for the quality, it was taken with my iPhone.)

So, from left to right, I bought over the month:

-Shades of Earth by Beth Revis (signed)
-Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
-The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine
-Arcadia Falls by Kai Meyer
-Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi (signed)
-Unite Me by Tahereh Mafi (signed)
-Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (signed)
-Cress by Marissa Meyer
-Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (signed)
-Supernaturally by Kiersten White
-Endlessly by Kiersten White (signed)
-Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
-Vampire Academy 1-5 by Richelle Mead
      -Vampire Academy
      -Shadow Kiss
      -Blood Promise
      -Spirit Bound

Out of all of those, so far I've read Ignite Me, Unite Me (sort of) and the first three Vampire Academy books. Spring Break is coming up, so hopefully I'll be able to make some sort of dent in this massive list; seriously, even for me this is a ridiculous amount of books bought in one month! Not that I'm complaining, of course :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book Review: Shadow Kiss

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, #3)Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shadow Kiss is the third installment in the Vampire Academy series. At the risk of spoiling the first two, this story picks up a few weeks after the events of Frostbite, which Rose is still recovering from. Meanwhile, she's having to adjust to a new sort of life: Adrian Ivashkov is on campus and causing trouble, Rose and the other Guardian novices are in the midst of their field training, and Rose's relationship with Dimitri is becoming even more complicated. Little does she know that something is coming, something that will put the ones she loves most--and herself--at risk.

So, Shadow Kiss happened.

This book hit you with the plot twists and turns with the force of a freight train. Everything happened, though most of it happened in the last third, per Richelle Mead standard. So let's talk about it.

Now, if I had read this three years ago, I wouldn't have had any sort of problems with it. Rose is witty and wild, and I feel the same emotions as I read them. Dimitri is sensitive, yet a physical force of nature in all the right ways. I thoroughly enjoy Christian's snark, Adrian's an arrogant-yet-tortured delight, etc.

However, I (at the risk of sounding like an ass) have now taken a bunch of college classes on reading stories critically. And I do have a few issues, specifically with certain technical aspects of the writing.



I felt that Rose & Dimitri's sex scene was eased into a bit too subtly, in that it sort of read "we kissed, and then it deepened, and then we'd had sex." Also, being a sex scene where actual sex isn't described, it's not as bad as some. You know, the ones that say stuff like "and then we became one" or something similar. However, Richelle Mead does this thing where she works hard to explain people's (Rose's) emotions in a way that you would express them to another person in a conversation. But, since this is a direct narrative, that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like she was telling, not showing (which is a phrase I am shamelessly ripping off from my Fiction Writing classes. Once they told me about it, I can never unsee it in a story).

I also felt like the pacing was a little bit off, at least in the climax. I say it was off, in that I initially didn't think I was reading the climax when it was happening. The scene itself felt like it had been eased into too quickly to be as important as it ended up being, and until a certain twist developed, the big scene before had felt more important and climactic, in that it felt like there was more on the line than with the actual climax.

Sidebar: ALSO SPOILERS MORE SPOILERS LOOK AWAY. I really didn't enjoy how Lissa was at the end. I understand that not everything had been known to her, but seriously? Not agreeing to help out in a serious situation because it would slightly negate what you said earlier to the Queen? And more "seriously?" still, that whole "you love him more than me" line made me clench my jaw. If this bond is so intense and strong, and if Lissa knows Rose so well, she ought to be able to see what's going on, as well as be able to see that Rose is serious on this one, and that it's more than just grief. I get that you're best friends, but you ought to realize that this relationship is definitely far from balanced, and that not everything goes both ways. Okay okay, rant over. It's partially that I naturally feel less strongly about the more passive characters in stories, and also because I'm coming from Rose's POV directly. Continue.

THAT BEING SAID, I did thoroughly enjoy the big twist. I came THIS CLOSE to being spoiled mere hours before I read it, and while I wasn't completely surprised, it still came as a shock. I'm also glad that the plot is progressing in the way I hoped it would, in that the high school element of the stories seems to be fading out and giving way to the big plot that Richelle has obviously been gunning for this whole time. I'm curious to see what new characters we have, and how Rose is going to deal with what's next.

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